Year one with TEAM
In January 2013, the College of Education and Human Development announced a new center focused on addressing the needs of children with autism - the Teacher Education Autism Model. Dr. Lee Mason, an assistant professor of Special Education in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, runs the center and a new Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Alonzo Andrews, has been hired to assist with supervision in the center. Now, a year after the center first opened, Mason gives the Spectrum an update
Q: So, tell us, how has the first year been at the center?
A: The first year at the TEAM Center has been more successful than we could have imagined! Our goal in developing the center was to create a facility for children with autism around which we could focus our research, teaching, and service. We impact our local community by providing functional communication training and other behavior analytic intervention to individuals with autism spectrum disorders. The masters students (who work in the center as behavioral technicians) will make an even greater difference when, upon graduation, they take teaching positions across the state. And the research we’re conducting at the center will have a national and international effect with respect to evidence-based practices for treating autism.
Q: Tell me about some of the center’s biggest successes it has had in its first year.
A: Our initial success was in recruiting two of our special education graduate students to volunteer their time in the center to accrue supervised field experience hours needed to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analysis exam. I’ll be forever indebted to these two brave students who were willing to take a chance by working here in our first semester in existence. But these students also helped to shape the TEAM Center into what it has become. They’re leaders among the other behavioral technicians, and have conducted research at the center and presented their findings at state conferences.
Q: What challenges have you run into?
A: The primary challenge is finding enough time in the day to do everything we need to do! We’re currently working on developing a referent-based curriculum for our techs to use with the children in the center, along with a corresponding supervision protocol. We have a growing queue of manuscripts for which data has been collected and that are just waiting to be written up. And we’re always working on designing the next research study.
Q: How many children with autism have you served?
A: So far we’ve been able to directly serve 15 area children with autism and their families. The children’s ages have ranged from two to 17 years old. In the long semesters (fall and spring) we plan to continue to provide early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) to children up through age five. During the summer semester, we expand our outreach to school-age children who might not otherwise receive educational services during the summer months.
Q: How many UTSA students were able to participate in the center, and what were their roles?
A: So far, nine different UTSA students have volunteered their time in the TEAM Center as behavioral technicians working directly with children with autism, and an additional nine students have worked as consultants to the families we serve. We’ve also involved several undergraduate students in research projects at the center, some of who have now applied for our graduate program. We’re thrilled to be able to get students interested in research so early on!
Q: Is there a certain field of study that students have to be studying to work in with TEAM?
A: Currently, all of our behavior techs have been graduate students seeking a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Special Education. The family consultants are completing their Master of Arts in School Psychology. But we’ve also had students from the counseling and psychology department express interest in our program.
Q: What do you hope to see happen in the next year at the center?
A: We plan to continue to expand our services over year two and beyond. We’re going after some major grant funding which will allow us to continue to conduct research, physically develop the laboratory and observation spaces, and produce expert classroom teachers and behavior analysts.